"Alex," Walter Skinner said, watching his lover chopping vegetables in a manner that could only be described as agitated, "would you please try to relax?"
The muttered reply was too indistinct to be certain, but he thought it was the same Russian phrase his grandfather would use when he found himself exasperated with a family member. Fondly shaking his head at the memory, Walter announced that he'd go put on some music.
He selected a disk from their collection and was in the process of removing it from its case when he heard the sound of knocking.
Walter was still holding the CD when he pulled open the door, revealing a lightly blushing Dana Scully. He stood aside to let her pass.
"Come in, Dana. Dinner will be ready soon."
"It smells delicious," Scully said, thrusting a bouquet of fall flowers toward Walter. "What's Alex making?"
"You brought flowers?," Walter queried, surprised.
Dana's blush deepened. "I love fall colors and couldn't resist buying some when I saw them on sale."
"They are beautiful," Walter agreed, trading the flowers for the CD he was still holding. "Would you mind putting this into the player while I find something to put them in?"
"No, I don't mind. Where is it?"
"Over there," Walter said, indicating the stereo system. "Second shelf from the bottom. And to answer your first question, Alex is making lasagne. He's becoming quite the cook."
"It smells wonderful," Dana reiterated.
"Could I get you something while I'm in the kitchen? A glass of wine, perhaps?"
"Wine sounds delectable."
"Then I'll be right back."
Walter went into the kitchen, where Alex was opening the oven, releasing an even more powerful aroma of lasagne.
"That really smells great, Alex. Scully says so, too."
"Walter, I hope dinner with Scully doesn't turn into a disaster," Alex said in a low voice. "I have no idea what to say to her."
"Well, for starters, you can thank her for the flowers," Walter said, rummaging through one of the cupboards. "This should do nicely," he said to himself, pulling out a crystal vase from a back corner. He moved to the sink and quickly rinsed off the dust before filling it with fresh water. Placing the flowers into the container, he turned back to Alex. "There, what do you think?"
"Very nice," Alex said, dryly.
Walter bit back a grin and laid his hand on Alex's arm. "Alex, it'll be fine. Just relax and be yourself." Walter released Alex and picked up the bottle of red wine he had opened earlier. "Would you like some too?"
Alex shook his head. "No thanks."
"Suit yourself," Walter said cheerfully, pouring more of the dark liquid into a second glass. Returning the bottle to the counter, he said, "Come with me and say hello to Scully."
Alex sighed, picked up the vase, and followed Walter into the living room. He knew Walter had strong feelings for Scully, so much so that he'd been willing to bargain with Spender in an effort to save her life. At the time, Alex remembered, he felt a mixture of intense anger and envy, that Walter would be willing to risk so much for her. It was only much later that he realized Scully was worthy of the chances he had taken.
Reminding himself how much he wanted this to work, Alex said, "Hi Scully. I'm glad you could come." And as he said the words, he realized they were true. Despite his misgivings, he *was* glad.
"It was nice of you to invite me. I was just saying, dinner smells great."
"And it'll taste as good as it smells," Walter predicted.
"I hope it will - I'm still learning," Alex replied. "I need to get back to the kitchen, but first I want to thank you for bringing us these flowers. They're very nice."
"You're welcome, Alex," Dana replied.
Alex returned to the kitchen still smiling.
Walter chatted with Scully until dinner was ready. As they walked in, Scully commented on how lovely the table was. Alex had taken special care with it, using the good placemats and Walter's wedding china. Scully's flowers took price of place in the center of the table, flanked on either side by the taper candles that normally occupied that space.
They had a simple green salad, then moved on to the lasagne, which Alex served with garlic bread. As Scully tried her first bite, Alex looked at her expectantly. Scully closed her eyes, savoring it.
"This is *so* good."
"Why not call me Dana?" She turned to Walter. "So tell me, did you teach him to cook like this?"
"I wish I could claim the credit, but it goes to Jack, a friend of ours."
Alex smiled. "He taught me his grandmother's Italian dishes. And don't let Walter fool you. He's a wonderful cook."
They applied themselves to the meal, until Walter broke what was becoming an uncomfortable silence.
"Dana, you like to go to museums, right?"
"Yes, very much, when I have time."
"Alex has been spending quite a bit of time in them lately, running security checks. I think he's been enjoying that part of his job."
"I do enjoy it," Alex agreed. "And I wish *we* had more time for stuff like that. I'd like you to see the traveling exhibit "World War II Through Russian Eyes" before it leaves town. And I'd love to take Nancy and the kids to the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. They have an amazing collection of Faberge' eggs and Russian niello."
Walter explained that Nancy was Alex's cousin and was very interested in their Russian heritage.
"But what's niello?" Scully asked.
"It's a sort of engraving method used on gold or silver," Alex answered. "After the artist engraves a design on the surface of the piece, an alloy of silver, copper, lead, and sulfur is rubbed into the etched areas. When the piece is fired, the area covered by the alloy becomes quite dark, highlighting the engraving."
"You know, I think I saw some Byzantine crosses made with that technique. They were lovely, but not something I could take my brother's children to see. I made the mistake of taking them to The National Gallery of Art when the Treasures of Ancient Egypt were on display and they ignored all of the smaller pieces. The only things they expressed an interest in was seeing mummies and exploring the inside of the Pharaoh's burial chamber."
"That's boys for you," Walter said. "If it doesn't involve death, destruction, or dinosaurs, they're bored stiff."
"Do you know about the exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute? I'll bet the boys would love to see their collection of Florentine arms and armor."
"That's an idea," Scully admitted. "How old are your cousins?"
Alex told her, describing the children animatedly. Dinner passed quickly, with Scully telling additional stories about her nephews. After desert, a tiramisu, they moved to the living room to continue their conversation.
When Scully announced she had to go, Walter and Alex walked her the door. Walter put his arm around Alex as he thanked Scully for coming.
"I had a wonderful time. Next time I'd like to have you two over for dinner. Although I don't know that I can top what we had tonight. Everything you made was delicious, Alex."
After Scully left, Alex stretched out on the couch. Walter joined him, Alex sitting up to give Walter the space he needed. Walter stroked Alex's head soothingly.
"I told you it would be fine, Alex. A little awkward at first, but it all it worked out."
Alex grinned. "Yeah, it could've been a lot worse. Hey, you remember I mentioned that Bruce has that thing at the museum, the Saturday before Halloween?"
"The costume party?"
"Yeah. Zoe's coming, she and Bruce are going as pirates. Did you know Bruce not only owns his own pirate costume, but that he has a wooden leg to wear with it?"
Walter chuckled. "Yes, I know. Bruce has quite a sense of humor."
"So, are you going with me?"
Walter leaned down to kiss Alex. "I would love to go with you."
"So who do you want to be for the party?" Alex asked.
"*I* don't want to be anyone but myself."
"Oh, come on, Walter. I want you to come and you have to dress up."
"Alex , I haven't been to a costume party since Sharon and I were married. She was Snow White and I was the prince."
"I am *not* going as Snow White."
"Why don't you go as a gladiator?" Alex asked, envisioning just that and licking his lips in response.
"I don't think so. What are you going to be?"
"I don't know yet."
"You could go as a vampire. You'd look sexy in a silk shirt and a black cape."
"You think so? I'll think about it. We should really go and get the kitchen cleaned up, you know."
"I'll do it. You worked hard on dinner. Why don't you have a nap?" Walter said as he got up.
"If I do, can we make out later?"
Walter laughed as he headed to the kitchen.
A week later, Alex and Walter were once again awaiting guests. When Alex had learned that Glen was helping to organize a veterinary conference on biodefense and public health and both he and Nancy would be spending a couple of days in Washington in preparation, he invited them to visit the apartment and meet Walter.
Now, Walter was walking around the apartment as if conducting an inspection. Both he and Alex were neat by nature, so their home was rarely disorderly, but today it was immaculate.
Knowing how important having family was to Alex, he wanted to make a good impression. But he hoped Alex wouldn't be able to see how nervous he was.
Alex came downstairs, sinking into his favorite corner of the couch. He watched Walter pace for a few minutes before he said, "Walter. Come and sit down."
Walter came and sat beside Alex. Alex took his hand. "Let me give you the advice you gave me. Relax."
Walter grinned ruefully. "I didn't think I was being so obvious."
"Walter, you're *never* nervous, so I noticed right away. Remember what else you told me? Be yourself. They can't help but love you."
"Thank you, Alex," Walter said, giving Alex a quick kiss.
"Why don't you put on some music?" Alex said. "Jazz usually manages to soothe your nerves."
And so, Walter was once again selecting a CD from their collection when he heard a knock at the door. This time Alex was free to greet their guests. Walter pulled one of their Miles Davis CDs out and put in the stereo, then went to meet Glen and Nancy.
"Come in, you guys. Nancy, Glen, this is Walter. Walter, meet Nancy and Glen Herndon."
"It's a pleasure," Walter said, shaking Glen's hand. "I've heard good things about you both."
"We've been looking forward to meeting you," Nancy said.
"Have you guys eaten? We could take you out."
"We haven't, but why don't we stay in?" Nancy suggested. "Do you guys like Chinese?"
"Yes, we do."
"Glen, why don't you go with Alex and get some takeout? Walter and I could get acquainted while you're gone."
Glen chuckled. "Okay honey, that was subtle. You want to, Alex?"
After they left, Nancy turned to Walter.
"Glen was right, I could have handled that better. But I wanted to have you all to myself for a few minutes to talk about Alex. Not to lecture, but to say that it's good to see him happy."
Walter nodded, smiling encouragingly.
"He had a really rough childhood. And when his parents died, it didn't get any better. Although Mother took him in, she wasn't nice to him. Then or now."
"I'll be honest with you, Nancy. I dislike your mother for the way she's treated Alex. But you and Glen have more than balanced that out, being so loving and accepting of him. Thank you for that."
Nancy waved away his thanks.
"You don't have to thank us for that. That's how family should be. And I'm determined we won't lose contact again."
"Good. Let's go set the table and find something to drink."
"Do you think she'll try to interrogate Walter?" Alex asked once he and Glen were in the car.
Glen chuckled. "Nah, she promised she wouldn't. She just wants to let him know how she feels. And even if she tried, don't you think Walter would know how to handle her?"
"Walter has the training, but considering how persistent Nancy can be, I wouldn't bet on the outcome."
Glen chortled. "I love her, but I've got admit, she's one stubborn woman when she's got her mind made up."
The mood was light when Glen and Alex returned to the apartment. They helped themselves to the food, then afterwards moved to the living room to chat.
"Do you guys have plans for Halloween yet?" Nancy asked.
"No, I usually don't do anything," Walter said. "Alex?"
"Are you kidding?"
"Then why don't you come to the farm? We'll be taking the kids trick or treating, just around to the neighbors, then there'll be a hayride and a bonfire. And we'll roast marshmallows and hot dogs."
Walter grinned. "Now *that* brings back memories. I haven't been on a hayride since I was a kid."
"That's what we've always done," Glen said. "I grew up on a farm, too, you know. Unlike these two city kids," he teased Alex and Nancy.
"Ain't that the truth," Nancy laughed. "We never went trick or treating. Mother considered it vulgar. We always had these very organized, neat, indoor Halloween parties."
"You poor deprived thing," Glen joked.
"It's funny, isn't it?," Nancy asked rhetorically. "Mother would spend a fortune on catering and renting theatrical costumes, but all I wanted was to be like everyone else. To have a costume from the dime store - one of the ones with a rubber band mask - and go trick or treating with the neighborhood kids."
"We didn't trick or treat," Walter said, "because we didn't live within walking distance of any of the neighboring farms. But we would all get together and do the whole hayride, bonfire, bobbing for apples thing. And my mom used to make my costumes."
"Glen's mom is making the kids costumes this year. She can sew beautifully. So you guys will come and maybe stay overnight?"
"Alex?" Walter asked.
"Yeah, I'd love to."
They talked a little longer, Walter and Glen reminiscing about growing up on a farm, then Nancy and Glen said goodbye.
"Alex, look what I found."
"'The Green Hornet'" Alex said, reading the title on the DVD. "I've never heard of it."
Walter shook his head, thinking that one disadvantage to having a younger man as his lover was that they didn't necessarily share the same cultural reference points. "When I was a teenager, it was my favorite show. Want to watch it with me?"
"Okay," Alex agreed, more because sitting on the couch with Walter sounded like a pleasant way to pass the evening than because he had any interest in the television program. Soon, though, he was watching avidly, no longer lounging against Walter's side, but leaning forward, his muscles as tense as if he himself were part of the action on the screen.
Walter grinned. Kato, if not the Green Hornet himself, was obviously a hit with Alex.
"No wonder you liked the show," Alex said when the movie ended. He suddenly stilled, looking at Walter appraisingly.
"What?" Walter asked.
"I bet you've got most of what you would need in your closet."
"I say again, what?"
"I think I have a solution for our costumes. You can be the Green Hornet, and I'll be Kato."
"Yeah, I like. Although."
"Although what?" Alex demanded.
"I sort of wish Kato wore tights."
Alex threw a pillow at Walter, laughing. They went upstairs and found a suit and tie for Walter, and agreed to look for a hat the next day, along with something for Alex. The only thing they needed was a mask.
"I'll find one," Alex promised.
When Walter and Alex arrived at the museum the night of the costume party, they had no trouble spotting Bruce and Zoe. Bruce was obviously enjoying himself. He had traded his small gold hoop earrings for larger ones and was dressed in a full pirate costume, complete with peg leg. Bruce broke into a huge grin when he saw Walter and Alex.
"Green Hornet and Kato! All right! I loved that when I was a kid."
Zoe smiled. "Hi, guys. Those are nice costumes."
"Where did you find them?" Bruce asked.
"We found most of it in Walter's closet."
"And Alex found the mask on eBay."
"You guys look great, too," Alex said. "I can almost smell the salt air."
He and Walter looked around at the usual assortment of mummies, clowns, and a scattering of superheroes.
"It looks like the fundraiser's going to be a big success," Walter commented.
"I overheard the director talking to the woman dressed as Queen Elizabeth I," Zoe said, "and he said ticket sales have already surpassed their best estimate."
"That's good to hear," Bruce rumbled. "Since we haven't billed them for their security system upgrade yet."
Alex grinned. "Speaking of, I want to show Walter some of the toys we installed."
"Go for it. It's time for me to cut the rug with my lovely lady of the sea."
Alex gave Walter a tour of the facilities, giving a running commentary of the challenges they'd faced while developing the advanced system that now protected the museum's collection of art and antiquities.
The night passed quickly, both men enjoying the festivities, the food, the live band, and the dancers in all their finery. It was well past midnight when the men said good night to Bruce and Zoe and began the long drive home.
"I think I like having you as my personal chauffeur," Walter said, watching Alex expertly maneuver his sedan between a large pothole and the debris left by an earlier fender-bender.
Alex grinned. "Do you think Britt Reid had a thing for Kato?"
"I don't know, but I'm looking forward to getting you out of your uniform and into our bed."
Alex increased his speed.
When they reached the apartment, Walter opened the balcony door and stepped outside. Alex joined him, inhaling deeply. "It smells great out here," he observed.
"It smells like fall," Walter agreed. "A smell I've always loved. It would be nice to live in the country, don't you think?"
"Do you want to move?"
"I think about it sometimes."
"This place is home to me. The first really happy one I've ever had," Alex said, leaning against Walter.
Walter nuzzled Alex's neck as he held him. Alex arched his neck, offering it to Walter, who kissed his way up to Alex's ear.
"Harder. Suck it," Alex rasped.
Walter obliged, and soon Alex felt Walter getting hard, just as he was. Alex turned around to kiss Walter, long and passionately.
"Fuck me, Walter," Alex said breathlessly.
Walter nodded and started inside. Alex stopped him. "Here, Walter, fuck me here."
"Alex, no, not here. Someone will see."
"No, it's a dark night. The moon isn't even out. Please, Walter. Right here. We both need this."
"Alex, it's - - the memories - -"
"Trust me. It's just what we need to lay them to rest."
Alex dropped to his knees to release Walter's hard cock from the confines of his clothing. Walter's breath caught as he looked down at Alex, his mouth engulfing his erection. Alex looked up at him, green eyes glittering behind the mask he still wore. He paused to take in the sight of Walter, soft light from the living room spotlighting him, framed by the dark fall night.
With one last look, Alex lowered his head to again suckle Walter's throbbing cock, enjoying the barely contained moans of his lover. Soon, Walter was urging Alex to his feet, helping him to get his pants down.
"Are you ready?"
"Oh yeah," Alex said, his voice roughened by desire. He turned to lean against the balcony rail. Walter leaned down to kiss Alex, then moved toward the balcony door.
Alex stopped him. "Where are you going?"
"For condoms and lube."
Alex reached into his pocket, pulling out both.
"Alex, did you plan this?"
Alex smiled. "No, but I like to be prepared. And I have been fantasizing about this. Tonight just . . . seemed right."
Walter gave an answering smile and held out his hand. Alex turned back to face the night as Walter sheathed his cock in latex and slathered on lube. He entered Alex quickly, but with care. Soon, Alex was the one fighting to control the moans and cries of pleasure that threatened to escape as Walter fucked him hard, hitting his prostate with every stroke. Walter watched Alex, incredibly aroused, even though Alex was still nearly fully dressed. Seeing Alex arch back to meet each thrust seemed to set him on fire. He realized Alex had been right. This night on the balcony would hold only good memories. Walter reached around to stroke Alex's cock, pumping in time to his thrusts. Alex threw his head back as his climax began. Walter let himself go, thrusting harder, coming with a loudly whispered "Alex!"
Walter pulled out gently, then leaned against Alex's back for a moment. He stood up, pulling Alex to his feet also. He looked at Alex, who had a sated look on his face, eyes still gleaming in the darkness. Walter felt a rush of love for Alex and leaned over to kiss Alex.
"I love you, Alex. More every day."
"I love you too, Walter."
They walked upstairs together, taking off their costumes before falling asleep in each other's arms.
"Alex, Walter, come in," Nancy hugged Alex, then moved on to Walter, ignoring his outstretched hand to embrace him also. "You're family, now too," she said, laughing.
Nancy motioned them into the kitchen, where an older woman in jeans and a flannel shirt was seated, playing with Jamie, who was dressed as Piglet.
"Walter, Alex, this is Georgia, Glen's mom. Georgia, this is Alex and Walter."
"Nice to meet you both."
"And Walter, you haven't met Jamie. This is James Nikolai."
"I've heard about him, though."
"Nancy, take Jamie," Georgia directed, "and I'll go and make sure that the girls are ready to go."
"Where's Glen?" Alex asked.
"He's outside with his dad. They're getting ready for the hayride. In fact, he said if you guys would go with us, they would stay and finish."
"Fine with me. Walter?"
Just then, Georgia came back in the kitchen with Anna and Mia, who were dressed as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and Jasmine from "Aladdin". Alex went to them, kneeling in front of the girls.
"You two look beautiful. I guarantee you'll be the two prettiest trick or treaters out tonight."
"I'm Belle," Anna I told him seriously. "Have you ever seen 'Beauty and the Beast?'"
"No, I haven't."
"You can watch with us. It's really good."
"I'd like that. Could you say hello to Walter? I bet he's never seen it either. Could he watch it with us?"
Anna looked up at Walter doubtfully. He kneeled beside Alex.
"Are you Anna? Alex told me how pretty you were."
"Yes. And this is Mia. She's Jasmine."
"Well, Alex was right. You're both very pretty."
"So will you watch 'Beauty and the Beast' with us?"
"I'd love to."
"Well, right now, let's get going," Nancy said.
She ushered everyone outside. "Someone needs to carry Mia. She'll never keep up."
"I could," Walter offered.
Mia shied away, hiding behind Nancy when Walter approached her.
"Honey, let Walter carry you," Nancy told her.
Mia shook her head. "No. Mommy."
"Nancy, give me the baby, and you take Mia." Walter caught Alex's surprised look. " It's been a while, but I still remember how," Walter informed him. Alex laughed. They set off down the dirt road that led to their neighbor's house. It was an old farm house, with a scarecrow out front surrounded by pumpkins and dry cornstalks decorating the lamp posts and entrance. Nancy put Mia down and then took Jamie back from Walter, who knocked on the door and then stepped back. The girls flanked their mother directly in front of the door, which opened, revealing an older woman. Anna yelled "Trick are treat!"
"Well, don't you all look pretty!" the woman said, reaching back for a bowl of candy. "Hello, girls. Nancy, they're adorable. Did you make their costumes?"
"Lord, no, Irene. You know I can't sew. Georgia made them."
Just then, a woman Nancy's age walked up with miniature versions of Yu- Gi-Oh and Harry Potter.
They went to about eight houses. Mia, finally over her shyness, allowed Alex to carry her home. When they got back, Glen and James had a bonfire going in the field beyond the back yard and everyone had gathered for the hayride.
"You all go ahead," Georgia told them. "I'm taking the baby inside."
"All right, everyone in," Glen said. "We've got hot chocolate and apple cider for anyone who wants to stay." He turned to James. "Dad, you'll drive?"
"Yeah, I'll drive."
"Alex, have you ever been on a hay ride?" Walter asked.
"I think you'll enjoy the experience."
Everyone got settled, then Anna piped up, " I want to sit with Alex, Mommy."
"Me, too," Mia added.
"Girls, I'm sure Alex --"
"It's okay, Nancy," Alex said, holding out his arms. "I'll tell you what, Mia. Since Anna asked first, you sit with Walter for now. When we're half way, we can switch, okay?" Mia agreed.
Some of the older neighbor kids had helped decorate along the route the hayride would take. There were scarecrows, and ghosts that moved with the autumn breeze. There was also an impressive fake graveyard. Jack O' Lanterns were prevalent.
At the midway point, as they went through a small grove of trees, Mia demanded her turn in Alex's lap. As the tractor slowed, Alex let Anna up to swap with her. Just then, two figures leaped out, one brandishing a knife. Walter was startled, but Alex reacted quickly. He slid easily from the wagon, and using the attackers' own momentum against them, pulled them forward, causing them to fall face down onto the dirt path before anyone could do anything.
James stopped the tractor and looked back in time to see Alex, now sitting on the back of a prone masked figure, toss the knife into the woods.
Growling, "Don't move," Alex reached down and unmasked his adversary. Walter, realizing what happened, tried valiantly to stifle his laughter as two very chagrined teenage boys were revealed. Glen joined James to check on them.
James, laughing heartily, choked out, "Alex, meet Donald and David. Two of my more troublesome grandchildren. And this should teach them not to try a stunt like that again."
Glen helped the boys up. He confirmed that they were fine, that they'd only had the breath knocked out of them.
Alex stood back, embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I just sort of reacted."
Nancy, who was still laughing, said, "It's okay. James is right. He's warned them before about doing that."
Phyllis piped up from the front of the wagon, "Can you teach me to move like you do?"
Everyone climbed back in and they headed home. Mia proudly took her place in Alex's lap for the remainder of the ride.
After the ride, everyone came back to the backyard for cocoa and apple cider. Then they roasted hot dogs and, of course, marshmallows.
Walter and Glen got into a good-natured debate over the correct way to roast a marshmallow. Walter proclaimed you should slowly brown it, where as Glen's technique was to stick it *into* the fire and then eat it.
After everyone had stuffed themselves, people started to drift off toward their homes. Anna and Mia, wired from all the sugar they'd consumed, were running around. Nancy suggested now might be a good time for them to let Walter and Alex watch "Beauty and the Beast", hoping the girls would settle down. Walter and Alex soon found themselves seated on the couch, with two tired little girls nodding off in their laps.
Nancy, checking in on them a little while later, saw the girls were more than half asleep. She asked Georgia to help her take the girls upstairs and put them to bed, and suggested to the men that they join Glen and James in the kitchen for coffee and cocoa.
Alex was once again apologizing for the incident with the boys when Nancy and Georgia came in.
Georgia waved off his apology. "I just wish I'd seen it. I don't know how many times they've scared me like that. 'Bout time somebody took 'em down." She looked at James. "I know you are not drinking coffee this late. We have to get some sleep. We need our rest to look after the kids tomorrow."
James and Georgia had agreed to babysit the children while Nancy and Glen went away for Glen's conference. They headed up to bed after James finished his coffee. Walter, Alex, Glen and Nancy stayed up a little longer, chatting amiably.
"I really enjoyed myself tonight," Walter said. "It reminded me of when I was a kid."
"You know it was a new experience for me," Alex said, "but I loved it."
Nancy smiled. "I'm so glad. I don't know if you have plans for Thanksgiving, but we'd love to have you here for the holiday. James and Georgia will be coming. Glen's sisters usually go to their in-laws. And Mother won't be here. John and Susie go to Connecticut."
Walter looked at Alex. "We haven't discussed holiday plans, actually. And thank you."
They excused themselves and went up to bed. And talked quietly about just what their plans were.
"What do you want to do for Thanksgiving?" Walter asked.
Alex, snuggling up to Walter, said, "I want to come here. What about you?"
"I do, too. My first thought was that Thanksgiving would mark a year that we've been together. But then I realized, it *is* a holiday for families. And we should be here with ours."
Walter felt Alex smile into his chest.
"You really like being back on a farm, don't you, Walter?"
"Yes, I do. And I told you that I realized farming wasn't for me. It still isn't, but being here brings back all the good memories I have of childhood."
"Walter, if you really want to, we can look for a place like this."
Walter kissed the top of Alex's head. "Thank you, Alex. But this seems to be my time for revelations. You were right all along about making our own good memories. It doesn't matter where we live. If we're together, I'll be happy. I can't tell you what you've given me, Alex, being in my life. I have never been this happy. So we'll stay where we are. Maybe some day, we might look for a place like this. Somewhere to come to get away. Maybe something we could fix up. Redo ourselves."
"Well," Alex said teasingly, "You *are* good with your hands."
"Alexei," Walter mock-growled, "don't you dare start something here."
Alex laughed softly. "I never could resist a dare."